The Top 14 Best Criminal Law Movies of All Time
Over the years, there have been numerous law movies made by major Hollywood studios. Many law movies did fairly well at the box office and captured our hearts and minds. We even still enjoy watching them today from the comfort of our home on Blu-ray or digital download.
Some of these movies were based on real-life events while others are purely fictional and are well worth watching since they do provide insights into legal processes and procedures.
Even though some of the films may seem older, they are still relevant today, as many laws are still the same and only changed when challenged in a court of law like the U.S. Supreme Court. Then they become referred to as “case law.”
Whether you like watching movies that feature court cases and the law or have an interest in becoming a lawyer someday, it is well worth your time to watch these best criminal law movies of all time, which are presented in no particular order.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This law movie was very controversial when it was released in 1962. The film focuses on a black man who was charged with rape in the Depression-era South, and how his lawyer Atticus Finch defended him. The movie is a timeless classic, as it is a story about race, racism, and obtaining justice while facing major obstacles.
2. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
When Kramer vs. Kramer hit movie theaters in 1979, the concept of divorce was still relatively new in the United States. The movie examines how the legal processes at that time could turn a divorce ugly and the impacts it had on the couple’s son Billy. It also features a contentious and very heated courtroom custody battle.
3. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
My Cousin Vinny is another comedy law film. It is the story of two college students from New York who are accused of murder in Alabama. One of the young men calls in help from his cousin Vinny, played by Joe Pesci, who is an inexperienced and loud Brooklyn personal injury lawyer. Even though the film is a comedy, it does provide a great overview of real-world procedural and legal issues.
4. Erin Brockovich (2000)
This law movie is based on real-life events of Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), who was an unemployed single mother. She got a job as a legal assistant at a small law firm, and one of her cases was to investigate a California power company that was accused of polluting the water supply in the city.
5. 12 Angry Men (1957)
This law movie takes a look at the deliberation processes and the struggles the jury can face when deciding the fate of an accused person. It also shows how, when one juror has doubts and refuses to go along with the entire group, it can help prevent the wrong verdict from being returned.
6. A Few Good Men (1992)
This law film focuses on legal processes in the Marines and military Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee as he defends Marines who have been charged with murder. The movie stars Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon.
7. The Verdict (1982)
The Verdict is a law film that deals with a medical malpractice lawsuit. Personal injury lawyer Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) is trying to salvage his career, so he refuses to settle the lawsuit and takes it to trial instead.
8. Philadelphia (1993)
This criminal law film stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The movie focuses on lawyer Andrew Beckett and how he was fired from a large law firm in Philadelphia after they found out he had AIDS. The only lawyer Becket can find is one who is homophobic yet still willing to take his case.
9. The Firm (1993)
This lawyer movie was directed by Sydney Pollack and stars Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise plays a new lawyer who joins a prestigious and successful law firm. Later he discovers there is more going on at the law firm besides representing clients with some very questionable practices.
10. … And Justice for All (1979)
This law movie examines the difficulties that lawyers face when they have to defend a client as part of the due process of the law, even though they know the client is guilty. The lawyer in the movie is trying to balance ensuring the innocent get justice while the guilty are punished.
11. The Rainmaker (1997)
The Rainmaker is a law movie about lawyer Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), who goes after a big insurance company with help from Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito) after it refuses to provide coverage for a mother’s dying son.
12. Legally Blonde (2001)
Legally Blonde might seem like a comedy, but it does give a good overview of law school and how law students earn experience in the courtroom. The movie is about Elle Woods following her boyfriend to law school, where she learns that she is interested in law and goes on to help defend a woman accused of murder.
13. Just Mercy (2019)
This is another law film based on real-life events. It portrays a young criminal defense lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who decides to review and fight death row cases in Alabama, where he feels justice has not prevailed. One of his first clients is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was wrongfully accused of murder and found guilty anyway.
14. Worth (2020)
Worth is another law film that is based on real-life events—namely, support for the victims of those affected by the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The movie examines how lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, played by Michael Keaton, continued to fight for the rights of those seeking the support they were promised.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Real-Life Legal Matters
While there is much to learn about legal processes, procedures, court trials, and other useful information in these best criminal law movies, it is important to remember that you should never represent yourself in any legal proceeding. No matter how much you think you understand the law, unless you are a lawyer the outcomes are rarely the same as you see in the movies.
For example, in personal injury lawsuits, there are several different types of compensation one could be entitled to receive. You may not be fully aware of these if you were to represent yourself. Furthermore, insurance companies have teams of lawyers on their side, so they will tear apart your claim or only offer the very minimal settlement amount possible.
By getting help from a qualified personal injury lawyer, you are ensuring the best possible outcome for your case. Furthermore, most personal injury law firms do not charge a fee unless they reach a reasonable and fair settlement or win your case in court.
Essentially, it does not cost you any money upfront to get sound legal advice and representation when filing a personal injury claim against the responsible party or parties. You only pay a percentage of the settlement or amount awarded by the court once your case is won.
If you need legal advice regarding a personal injury matter, including on-the-job accidents, maritime accidents, medical malpractice, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, slips, trips, and falls, wrongful death, construction accidents, and others, please feel free to contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. at 713-893-0971 today!
We offer a free case consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we do not collect any money upfront and only collect our fee if our personal injury law firm wins your case.